as mina rounded the corner on her way home from another unfulfilling day at college, she was confronted by the silhouette of her grandmother bent on the ground, face almost touching the grass in front of the house. she burst into a run and, within a few meters of her grandmother, suddenly stopped and began staring. she hadn’t collapsed. she was actively searching for something but obviously not finding it.
grandma, i’m home. i’ll help you look.
her grandmother’s face began to shine with pleasure to see mina and she was obviously relieved because her eyesight left much to be desired and young eyes should have guaranteed success.
i’m glad you’re here! now i’ll be able to find my glasses.
you dropped your glasses out here?
no. i dropped them in the living room. but it’s so dark in there i can’t see. out here it’s bright so i have a chance of finding them.
this is a traditional buddhist story about enlightenment. a diligent search in the light, however well-intentioned and devoted, will never lead to wisdom or understanding. enlightenment is impossible unless we confront and accept not only the light, the happiness and goodness in ourselves but the darkness and confusion, the suffering and imbalance found there, too.
mina’s grandmother is putting a lot of effort into her search and she is doing it where there is an excellent chance of finding something — the problem is that she won’t find what she’s looking for there, though perhaps she will discover something else. this could lead to confusion in many ways. the first is that she will eventually become discouraged and disinterested by her fruitless search. the other is that she may mistake whatever she finds for the object of her search — her glasses in this case or enlightenment in ours.
what buddhism preaches is revolutionary acceptance. not simply accepting the good but looking deeply at the darkness and problems in our lives and understanding that we will have to start from wherever we are rather than fighting against the things that are already true and present around us. if we don’t accept the situation, we will be locked in a struggle with reality and reality always wins. when we accept it, it doesn’t mean we have to see our current place as good, only recognize it as true. from that moment of acceptance, we start looking in the right place for our enlightenment — the place where we are.